Wide open race

2009-12-05 00:00

ANT Stott and Michael Mbanjwa, favourites for the Land Rover 50 Miler, put in a last-minute late entry on Thursday evening to become obvious picks to win the event this weekend.

In the absence of Len Jenkins and Hank McGregor, the rest of the field presents a quandary to punters as it contains several strong new combinations that have not yet been properly tested.

Thomas Ngidi and Eric Zondi won the Midmar Mini Marathon recently, but the reduced emphasis on portaging in the 50 Miler is against them.

Andrew Birkett and Jason Graham won the Ibis to Dip race and, with its combination of a big portage and tricky rapids, probably places them as the best challengers today.

There is also the strong Gauteng combination of Piers Cruikshanks and Jacques Theron, se­cond in the Vaal SA K2 a couple of weeks ago. However, there are at least five other crews all in with a good chance and as many again waiting in the wings for someone to make a mistake. These include Michael Patrick and Chris Birkett, Craig Turton and Miles Rasmussen, Lucas Mthalane and John Ngcobo, and juniors Lance Kime and Kwanda Mhlophe. Definitely one of the most open 50 Mi­lers in recent years.

The women’s race is a little easier on the punters, with three boats standing out in the seeded batch of 11. Abie Miedema and Robyn Kime are definitely the boat to beat, but Hillary Pitchford and Jen Hodson, and Abby Adie with Lindi-May Harmsen, will definitely both be trying very hard to do just that.

Thanks to the good rains and the co-operation of Umgeni Water, day two of the race will, as is tradition, run from Inanda Dam to Blue Lagoon tomorrow, riding on a one-million cubic metre release from the dam. Day one is from Mission Rapid on the Umsunduzi below Table Mountain to below the Marianni Foley causeway on the Umgeni, taking advantage of another release, this time from Henley Dam above Piet­ermaritzburg. The starts on both days are at 7 am.

Organisers, Umzinyathi Canoe Club from Shongweni Dam and their sponsors, Land Rover Gear, are delighted with the entry of over 750 paddlers, almost 200 up on last year. An innovation this year are live trackers from Champion Chip, which will enable spectators to follow the race live on plasma screens at the finish of each day. The winners can be expected in Blue Lagoon from around 9 am tomorrow.

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